Boks ready to deal with expectation

Recent wins have elevated the defending champions in the general estimation

Liam Del Carme Sports reporter
Recent success has made the Springboks the talk of the town and perhaps the most feared team in the RWC.
Recent success has made the Springboks the talk of the town and perhaps the most feared team in the RWC.
Image: Steve Haag (Gallo Images)

The paradox that is Springbok rugby has seen the defending Rugby World Cup champions drawn from their comfort zone by recent success.

It is often argued the Springboks tend to play their best rugby when expectation is low and with their backs to the wall, but that is not a position they occupy one week away from the start of the RWC.

Their convincing wins over Argentina, Wales and the All Blacks, all away from home in preparation for the RWC have elevated the Springboks in the general estimation, though it is not a topic of conversation that sits easy with head coach Jacques Nienaber.

“We spoke about how close it will be in this World Cup. It's the most tightly contested in history,” said the coach who went on to illustrate how quickly fortunes can change by pointing to the Springboks' last two clashes against the All Blacks.

Changing fortunes

The All Blacks clearly separated themselves from the Boks in Auckland but the Green and Gold bounced back with an emphatic win in London last week.

“If you are off one or two percent off your game teams can put you away,” cautioned Nienaber. “You have to make sure you are consistently 100% ready. Teams can put you to the sword.

“We knew we would come in as champions. It is what it is. We will have to bear that and be comfortable with it,” said the coach.

The Boks have concluded a gruelling training week in Corsica and will now head for their RWC base camp in Toulon.

“We had a really good week,” said the coach. “Obviously the main reason we were in the Mediterranean was to get used to conditions and humidity that is similar to Durban's.

Conditioning sorted

“It was the last top-up from a conditioning point of view before the RWC but there will be small breaks in the tournament to do more. We could do some solid conditioning now.

“We also had one eye on Scotland getting the majority of our stuff done for our game against them.” The Boks play Scotland in their competition opener at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille next weekend, with victory likely to bring the later reward of qualification for the knock-out stages.

Scotland have a distinct South African flavour on the field as well as in their coaches' box and the Boks are not taking them lightly despite losing to them just once in their last 15 clashes. Scotland however have improved under head coach Gregor Townsend and finished third in the Six Nations having only lost to Ireland and France.

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